The Shiralee

The Shiralee, D’Arcy Niland, 1955

  • Australia, #11
  • Paperback, bought from for $0.99
  • Read October 2014
  • Rating: 2.5/5
  • Recommended for: light reading, transparent emotional manipulation

Eh, not amazing, and fairly predictable. Entertaining enough, but basically if you’ve seen “Paper Moon” and can imagine it set in Australia, you don’t really need to read this book.

It was interesting though, after reading While the Billy Boils and Such is Life, to see how the tradition of the swagman continued into the 20th century. It gives an impression of a society that has moved on very little since Henry Lawson’s day, fifty years before. But the myth of the swagman has changed. He’s become harder, hollower, less human. Macauley’s humanity, as emblemized by his daughter, is set at odds with his way of life. It seems analogous to the way the American cowboy legend changed—from the gregarious loner of “Stagecoach” to the misanthropic racist of “The Searchers” (just to choose the bookends of John Wayne’s western career as an example). Is it that people of the 20th century like their heroes a bit more on the anti- side, a bit harder to love, and harder to understand?

California 2005

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